CHINESE investors are in Zambia not just to make money but also to transfer technology and build infrastructure, Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Li Qiangmin has said.
But Lusaka business consultant Bob Sichinga has charged that China has taken over from the Western countries in 'raping the country's' resources in the name of investment.
Meanwhile, World Bank president Robert Zoellick said the Bretton Woods institute will continue to intervene in Chinese influence on the continent to ensure Africans benefited.
Ambassador Qiangmin said China had made great contributions to Zambia's economic growth.
"Chinese investors are not in the country just to look for money as many people say. They are here to make serious investments that will transfer technology and build infrastructure," Ambassador Qiangmin said. "Already, Chinese investment created 25,000 jobs in 2009. We also trained locals in various fields. Even those mines that were closed, some of them have been taken over by Chinese investors. During the global crisis, Zambia had a lot of challenges and many people were losing jobs, but that is the time that many Chinese came and invested and created jobs. That is a great contribution!"
He said more Chinese were willing to invest in agriculture, construction and education.
Ambassador Qiangmin strongly believed that Zambia was among the best investment destinations in Africa.
But Sichinga said the Chinese were in the country because they wanted to annex natural resources to their country.
"Zambia is a country with the bulk of copper and we are well endowed with other natural resources, the Chinese know that," he said. "That is why they want to annex our resources to their country. They also want to fund China's growth which requires a lot of natural resources especially metals that they need for their industries…the Chinese have put their act together, they have seen a loophole in Zambia. In the past, Western countries raped Zambia and Africa for her resources and now its China's turn. And while all that is happening, we are sitting wide open. How can you have a regime that is open-ended?"
He said the government should reserve some areas for exclusive local investments and to strictly ensure that investors partnered with locals with the latter getting 51 per cent of the shares.
"No economy grows on foreign investments only, and no one can come here just to help, not even the Chinese. No country has ever developed on the basis of another one," Sichinga said. "They want money, that's why they are here. That is why they brought their own bank and a school. We need to find our own formula for development. We should not just think about taking out all the copper from the ground, what about our children and grandchildren? There are also entitled to those resources and they can come and work with that."
He said Zambia's laws were implemented selectively when dealing with foreign investors leaving the country open to abuse.
"How laws are applied in this country is discriminatory. Our laws are so weak that even money launderers can easily come and do their dubious deals here," he said. "And speaking as former chairperson for the parliamentary committee on labour, the Chinese are very bad employers who disrespect labour laws and get away with it. We need to enforce our national laws if we are to benefit from foreign investments."
The Zambia Development Agency is targeting to attract about US$1 billion foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country this year according to the agency director general Andrew Chipwende.
Addressing a 50 man team of Japanese investors who recently visited the country, Chipwende said with the business reforms the country was implementing and the economic stability recorded in the last few years, ZDA was confident of recording increased FDI inflows this year.
He said following the FDI trends into Zambia since 2000 and after the bursting of big economies out of the recession that withered FDI inflows last year and part of 2008, the Agency was confident to meet the one billion dollar target this year.
Chipwende said the business reforms the country was pursuing mainly under the Triangle of Hope initiative was putting the country on higher leverage in the region, a situation ZDA aimed to utilise to attract more FDI into Zambia from all over the world.
In the past one year, Zambia has recorded an increase in the number of investors willing to set up camp in the country.
Recently, a group of Indian businessmen toured the country to scout for investment opportunities. Soon after that China also brought its team of explorers and a 50 member team of Japanese investors was recently in the country for the same reason.
There is keen interest in the country that one can not help but to question if there was a 'scramble for Zambia?'
European Union head of delegation in Zambia Derek Fee is of the view that the country is attracting investors because of the positive growth she has recorded recently.
"Zambia has recorded 6.3 per cent economic growth in 2009 and the same is expected this year," Fee said in an interview on Friday. "That economic growth is an attraction for people to come and invest here. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) always follows growth. That is why you won't see investors rushing to Zimbabwe."
He gave an example of China as one of the countries that attracted investment through growth.
"When China showed signs of growth, all serious investors rushed there," he said. "As a result, that country has grown to the level it has reached today. That is exactly what is happening here."
When the Economics Association of Zambia (EAZ) organised a seminar to show case the country's investment opportunities last week, commerce minister Felix Mutati told the gathering that Zambia was now second in the region in terms of Direct Foreign Investment.
And Zoellick said there was need to build a balance to ensure that in as much as China was benefiting from its strong presence on the continent, Africa also benefited.
Zoellick last week told journalists from African countries via video conference from Addis Ababa on the sidelines of the Africa Union Conference that the World Bank welcomed Chinese investments on the continent as it provided investment opportunities and also helped the continent to enhance infrastructural development.
He said there was need for Africa and sub-Sahara in particular to ensure that only appropriate Chinese investments were absorbed unlike currently when Sino labourers had flooded the job markets on the continent, depriving locals of employment opportunities.
"We welcome Chinese investments in sub-Sahara because we think it has the potential to build infrastructures, create additional jobs and create some new investments opportunities, especially in the manufacturing sector," Zoellick said. "At the same time, we need to work with both Africa and Beijing so that the full benefits of Chinese investments are felt by Africans."
Zoellick said there was need to increase education levels for Africans so that Chinese labourers do not take over the job markets on the continent.
"To make sure you do that, you need good education, training, primary education, improve the health of your people," said Zoellick. "You Africa need to improve some higher level of education like higher level of tertiary education…"
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